#Take15 – Hidden Faces of Tech: PeePower

It’s not a type of power that comes up much in conversation. But if you’ve been to Glastonbury Festival any time in the past five years, you may have come across PEE POWER.

That’s not a typo. PeePower is a system designed to turn organic matter – urine, for example – into electricity.

It’s pretty gosh darn ingenious. So for our second dip into our Hidden Faces of Tech series, we thought we’d take a look at the Bristol team behind this marvellous technology.

What is PeePower?

PeePower turns urine into electricity, sanitising it and producing fertiliser as a by-product.

It works using Microbial Fuel Cell technology that is being developed by a team at UWE’s Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL). The cells contain live microbes that feed on urine and other organic matter. As the microbes feed and grow, the cell captures the biochemical energy they create and converts it into electricity.

It’s a spin-off from the BRL’s BioEnergy and Self Sustainable Systems projects, all of which are themed around bringing this kind of technology into the real world.

The PeePower project is funded by the EU, the EPSRC and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It’s due to be expanded in future by a social enterprise called Robial.

Where does PeePower come from?

It’s within all of us, guys. All you need to do is believe.

But as far as the origins of the technology go, we have Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, Director of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and his team to thank.

You can learn all about the team and a whole lot more about the project itself over on the Bristol BioEnergy Centre website.

Where is PeePower being used?

Glastonbury Festival

The first demonstration of PeePower was one raised latrine placed outside the university. By the time they were demonstrating the tech at the past few Glastonbury Festivals, it was a structure that could handle 40 people.

This is the flagship project of a formal partnership between the organisers of Glastonbury Festival and the University of the West of England. The partnership aims to produce all kinds of waste reduction and sustainability technologies.

The power from the urinals recharged mobile phones, powered signs at the festival and lit lights within the toilet building!

Family Day at Heathrow Airport

Working in partnership with waterless urinal company WhiffAway, PeePower technology was demonstrated as part of a Family Day event at Heathrow Airport trying to introduce the idea of the technology to the broadest range of people.

Schools in Uganda and Kenya

In its first “real-world” deployments, PeePower has been introduced to schools in some of the poorest communities in Uganda and Kenya.

The team at the Bristol BioEnergy Centre is working with WhiffAway as well as Oxfam and outdoor furniture and housing makers Dunster House to try to help people in refugee camps and other very deprived areas where electricity and sanitation are major issues.

The future of PeePower

It seems that Professor Ieropoulos and his team, working in collaboration with their partners, hope to see the technology start to see more use in parts of the world where it can do the most good.

The uses PeePower technology has been put to so far are pretty small scale. But, like you we hope, we are very excited to learn the purposes it can be put to in the future.

Did you enjoy the latest foray into our #Take15 campaign?

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